Whether you are an athlete, strength trainer, bodybuilder, crossfitter, or just a fitness enthusiast, building strength is likely at the forefront of your athletic goals. Our physical strength affects many aspects of our lives, from how we look to how we feel, to how we perform everyday tasks and job duties. Whether you’re just starting out, or you’re an experienced weightlifter looking for a competitive edge, you’re probably wondering how you can gain an advantage and reach your strength-training goals faster.
Well, obviously the number one component of successful strength building is strength training itself. You need to have a regular schedule set to ensure you train often and consistently. If you have not yet established a schedule, check out some workout plans for inspiration. After strength training, diet is the number 2 most important aspect. Ensure you have a proper diet, and you’ll have a huge head start on reaching your fitness goals. Beyond diet and exercise, we come to a possible third aspect of successful strength training: supplementation.
Now, we enter the world of fitness supplements. Whey protein, creatine, amino acids, glutamine – just to name a few. These products are found in every drugstore, every gym, and most grocery stores. They are used every day by tons of people around the world, who use them to help meet their fitness goals. Today, we’re here specifically to talk about the best supplements for strength goals.
How Can Supplements Help Your Strength?
In order to gain strength and build muscle, supplements are not required. With a proper exercise routine and a good diet, you can grow strong without the help of supplements. However, some supplements may help you in your goals.
Now, keep in mind that there is no single supplement that can provide all of these benefits; rather, each product offers its own unique benefits.
Why Should You Take Supplements When Strengith Training?
As we mentioned in the previous section, supplements certainly are not necessary in order to gain strength and build more muscle. However, they may sometimes provide a helping hand in that pursuit.
With that being said, there are plenty of strength “supplements” out there that are not worth taking. The supplement industry is constantly coming up with new products, some of which are effective and safe, others of which are not worth your time or money to try. This is why it’s important to be an informed consumer.
10 Supplements for Helping Strength Goals
What is L-Carnitine?
L-carnitine is an amino acid that has been the subject of clinical research. In the body, L-carnitine is naturally synthesized by combining lysine and methionine. In supplement form, L-carnitine provides an array of benefits which make it a great choice for those looking to increase strength.
How to Take L-Carnitine
For best results, follow the instructions found on the product packaging, and never take more than the recommended amount. In order for carnitine to be effectively absorbed, it needs to be taken with food. More specifically, carbs are key to proper L-carnitine absorption. It’s best to take your dose during or shortly after a meal.
L-Carnitine Side Effects
In supplement form, L-carnitine can cause minor side effects like heartburn, stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, and a few others. Many people do not experience side effects, but some do. More serious side effects are possible if you go over the recommended dosage amount.
What is Zinc?
Zinc is a mineral that is essential for good health. It is found in some foods, as well as in multivitamins and various supplements. It’s also a common addition to health products such as cold remedies, cough drops, etc. Zinc plays a number of key roles in the body, including supporting immune health, promoting protein synthesis, and much more.
How Zinc Helps Strength Goals
Zinc is not traditionally known as a workout supplement, but nonetheless it was an easy choice for our list of good supplements for strength. Primarily, this is because zinc is involved in the process of protein synthesis, and because zinc has affects on testosterone.
How to Take Zinc
Zinc supplements are typically in pill/capsule form, so they are easy to take. Just pop one with a glass of water, and you’re good to go. The recommended daily intake for zinc is 11mg for men and 8mg for women. When figuring out how much to take, keep in mind that you likely already consume some zinc from your daily diet. It’s best to take zinc supplements with food.
Zinc Side Effects
The most common zinc side effects are stomach upset, nausea, etc. That said, side effects are rare, so long as zinc is taken as instructed.
What Are Multivitamins?
Multivitamins are something that most health-conscious individuals are probably already familiar with. These ubiquitous products are found on store shelves and medicine cabinets worldwide, and are the most-used health supplement out there. Multivitamins contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, combined into a single simple package. Basically, they serve as a sort of nutritional insurance; making it easier to ensure that you reach your daily nutritional needs.
How Multivitamins Help Strength Goals
Multivitamins are not something you immediately think of when you think about strength supplements, but they provide numerous benefits nonetheless. Multivitamins are useful supplements for a wide range of people, weightlifters and bodybuilders included. Basically, they help to improve overall health and wellbeing by possibly helping fill any nutritional gaps left by your diet.
How to Take Multivitamins
Multivitamins are very easy to take. All you need to do is follow the instructions found on the product packaging. Generally, that will involve simply taking one serving – usually a pill or capsule – per day. In general it’s best to take multivitamins with a meal, as that will increase nutrient absorption. Do keep in mind that multivitamins are no replacement for a proper diet – make sure you’re eating a healthy diet as well.
Multivitamin Side Effects
So long as they are taken as instructed, multivitamins should not cause any side effects. However, some negative effects are always possible. Some people report headaches and stomach discomfort, particularly when they first start taking a new multivitamin. To help avoid side effects, take multivitamins with food.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is a natural supplement derived from the oils of fatty fish, including salmon, mackerel, and others. Fish oil is a popular supplement for a variety of reasons. It’s packed full of helpful omega-3 fatty acids, which are the reason fish oil is so beneficial. You can obtain omega-3’s from a variety of sources, including eating fish itself, but fish oil supplements are by far the easiest and most efficient way to increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids.
How Fish Oil Helps Strength Goals
Fish oil is a staple for many athletes for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it has anti-inflammatory properties. For weightlifters, that benefit may translate to faster recovery times, less muscle soreness, etc.
How to Take Fish Oil
You can simply add it to your regular diet and supplement routine. It’s easy on the stomach, and quite simple to take. It’s best to take your dose with a meal for optimal absorption. For post-workout recovery, taking a serving after your workout is ideal.
Fish Oil Side Effects
For the most part, very few side effects are reported from these supplements. The most common is a fishy aftertaste after taking a dose – which is not surprising, given what these capsules are filled with! To counter this, either try freezing the capsules, or take your dose with a meal to minimize any unwanted fishiness.
What are Testosterone Boosters?
Testosterone boosters are supplements – typically blends of herbs, minerals and other ingredients – designed to potentially help boost natural testosterone production in the body. As you may or may not know, testosterone is a hormone primarily associated with sex drive, strength gains, and increases in muscle mass. It’s typically thought of as a “male” hormone, although both sexes have testosterone naturally in their bodies. In testosterone boosters, blends of ingredients are typically used, but the “main players” are often D-aspartic acid, tribulus terrestris, fenugreek, and ZMA.
How Testosterone Boosters Help Strength Goals
Simply put, the proposed goal of these products is to help your testosterone levels. Good testosterone levels are key to reaching strength goals.
How to Take Testosterone Boosters
Typically, test boosters come in pill/tablet form, so they are easy to take. Testosterone boosters generally contain a blend of ingredients, designed to work together. Since each product is a bit different, it’s important to follow the dosage instructions on the product you’re taking. Do not exceed the recommended dosage. We strongly recommend speaking with your doctor before taking a testosterone booster.
Testosterone Booster Side Effects
As mentioned, testosterone boosters generally contain a blend of ingredients. Therefore, various side effects are possible depending on how your body reacts to the included ingredients. Some side effects of testosterone boosters include acne, mood changes, etc.
What are Pre-Workout Supplements?
Pre-workout supplements, as the name suggests, are supplements designed to be taken before you workout. They are formulated to provide you a boost of energy. Basically, these products aim to improve the quality of your workouts and improve the results you see. Although there are several key players, most pre-workouts will contain a variety of ingredients, blended together to produce optimal results.
How Pre-Workout Supplements Help Strength Goals
Pre-workout supplements are designed to help boost your performance during your time at the gym. Obviously, it’s not hard to see how a better workout can lead to increased strength. Strength training is the number one way to build strength, so clearly, if you’re able to extend your workout duration and intensity through the use of pre-workouts, you’ll be able to increase strength more rapidly. Of course you still have to put in the work and exercise regularly in order to reap the rewards. But, if you’re someone who lifts regularly and you’re looking for a helpful push in the right direction, pre-workouts can help.
How to Take Pre-Workout Supplements
As the name suggests, pre-workout supplements are designed to be consumed right before your workout. Give at least 10-20 minutes for the effects to kick in. So, it’s best to take a dose around 15-30 minutes before you begin to work out.
Most pre-workouts come in blended powder form. You can mix them into water, juice, or other liquids, or blend them in shakes. As for dosage, the recommended serving size varies depending on the product you choose – be sure to check the label, and don’t take more than recommended.
Pre-Workout Supplement Side Effects
Pre-workouts contain a wide variety of ingredients, which means that side effects are always possible. One of the most commonly used ingredients which also happens to cause the most side effects is one you will be familiar with: caffeine. Caffeine, while a great energy booster and pre-workout tool, can also cause dehydration, trouble sleeping, anxiety, etc. Be sure not to take a pre-workout too close to bedtime, as that can make it difficult to fall asleep. Other side effects are possible, as well. Do not take more than the recommended serving size of any pre-workout supplement.
What is Glutamine?
Glutamine, or L-glutamine, is an amino acid that is found in some foods as well as naturally in our bodies. Glutamine is actually the most prevalent amino acid in muscle tissues, and for good reason – it plays a role in the health of your muscles, and is key in the process of strength increases and muscle growth.
How Glutamine Helps Strength Goals
Glutamine is stored naturally in your muscle tissues, so every time you exercise, your body uses these glutamine stores to help protect and repair muscle. By adding more in supplement form, you can boost the natural levels and reap additional benefits.
How to Take Glutamine
Glutamine typically comes in powdered form, or in premade capsules.
Glutamine Side Effects
In rare cases, folks have reported joint pain, headache, and gastrointestinal issues.
What are BCAAs?
BCAAs, best known by their formal name of branched chain amino acids, are a family of amino acids. Consisting of three different acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine), this family is labeled “branched chain” because of the molecular structure of the acids. We could dive into the chemistry and science behind BCAAs, but you’re probably more interested in how they can contribute to strength increases. Chiefly, BCAAs are coveted in the strength training community for their role in protein synthesis.
How BCAAs Help Strength Goals
BCAAs are amino acids, and all amino acids are often referred to as “building blocks” of protein. As you likely know, protein plays a key role in the building of new muscle, as well as in maintaining the health of existing muscle mass.
How to Take BCAAs
Be sure to follow the written instructions on the product you choose. Also, you may notice a notation that says “BCAAs: 2:1:1” or something similar. This refers to the ratio of each individual BCAA used. In order, the acids are leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Each of these amino acids offer unique benefits, but are generally best used together.
BCAAs Side Effects
Some new users report feeling loss of coordination and/or fatigue.
What is Whey Protein?
Whey protein is a simple pure protein derived from dairy. It comes in powdered form, and is generally mixed into shakes, drinks, or added to foods. It provides something extremely valuable for strength trainers: pure, high quality protein. As any experienced weightlifter knows, getting adequate protein in your diet is absolutely essential for success in strength training – which is why whey protein is one of the best strength supplements.
How Whey Protein Helps Strength Goals
Whey protein is a good supplement for strength because it helps your muscles recover faster and more completely after your workouts. Basically, when you lift heavy weights your muscles develop micro tears, which need time to heal. Time, and protein, essentially. Protein, which is made up of amino acids, is essential for the proper healing of muscles, which leads to muscle growth. And whey protein has an excellent amino acid profile, meaning it provides a great mix of the best amino acids for muscle growth.
Also, as mentioned, whey protein provides a very easy and affordable way to increase protein consumption. Weightlifters and athletes need a ton of protein, often significantly more than the general population. And unless you’re eating a pound of steak every day (please don’t!) it’s going to be tough to meet those protein needs. That is, it would be tough without whey protein! With 20-30g of pure protein in each serving, this affordable and accessible supplement is perhaps the easiest way to boost protein consumption.
How to Take Whey Protein
Whey protein is primarily used as a post-workout recovery tool. So, for the most part, it’s best to use it immediately following your workouts. The sooner the better, in fact – many people even take a pre-made protein shake with them to the gym. You can use a BlenderBottle to mix a shake on-the-go. If you can’t take a shake with you, have one as soon as you get home for best results.
Whey protein always comes in powdered form. Usually it’s flavored, with chocolate and vanilla being the most common flavors. You can also find unflavored varieties, which is nice because they are more versatile. As for how to take it, you’ll want to mix it into water, milk, or juice, or put it in a shake. Protein shakes are quite popular, and many folks actually mix multiple supplements into them for convenience and efficiency.
As mentioned, typically serving sizes will contain 20-30+ grams of high quality protein. It’s possible to take multiple servings each day, and many people do. If you get bored of drinks and shakes, try mixing protein into baked goods, or follow a protein powder recipe to make some tasty treats.
Whey Protein Side Effects
Some users report feeling minor stomach upset, gas, etc. but that usually goes away once you take the supplement for a while. There are some long-term concerns with consuming too much protein.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic acid that is found in meat products, particularly in beef and tuna. It’s also present in the human body naturally, synthesized through the combination of three key amino acids. Creatine has many roles to play in the human body, but most significant is its role in the production of energy. In its natural state, creatine helps with the production of ATP, and helps create energy for muscles to function properly.
How Creatine Helps Strength Goals
Creatine plays a key role in the body’s ability to create and use energy. Specifically, it is an integral part of energy use within the muscles. It essentially functions by transferring extra energy into muscle cells, allowing for stronger muscle contractions with increased endurance.
How to Take Creatine
There is much debate in the fitness community about when and how to take creatine. As far as how, the process is quite simple: creatine is typically offered in powder form, and must be mixed into drinks or shakes to be consumed. Both flavored and flavorless options are available. It’s also quite easy to just throw in a protein shake, particularly if it’s a tasteless version. The typical recommended dosage is 5g per day, although some choose to take more at first during the “loading phase”. Learn more about creatine loading and creatine cycling here.
As for when to take creatine, that’s where the debate comes in. Some claim that creatine should be taken immediately before a workout; some claim it should be taken after. Others claim that timing is irrelevant; so long as you take a dose every day, the creatine stores in your muscles will do their job. You can research this debate for hours and get nowhere – in the end, timing likely won’t make too much of a difference.
Creatine Side Effects
Creatine is considered to be likely safe. For the most part, reported side effects are mild. The most common include dehydration, bloating, and slight weight gain.
To counter the risk of dehydration, it’s important to drink enough water when taking creatine. As for the weight gain/bloating, it’s just temporary water weight.